Long Beach veterans living in poverty at higher rate than county and state average

While Long Beach veterans are more likely to be high school graduates and less likely to be unemployed, they are living in poverty at a higher rate when compared to veterans in the rest of Los Angeles County.

According to American Community Survey data gathered between 2012-2016, 95.5% of veterans living in Long Beach have at least a high school diploma, slightly higher than the average of 93.2% for LA County veterans and 94.5% for veterans across California.

Although the employment rate for Long Beach is minimally lower than the state average, with 7.5% of veterans unemployed in Long Beach compared to 7.1% across California, it is still better than the average for LA County, which has 9.4% of veteran unemployment.

There are approximately 17,927 veterans living in Long Beach according to the 2019 Community Health Assessment by the City. With an unemployment rate of 7.5%, this would account for approximately 1,344 individuals.

However, there are significant differences in veteran unemployment between Long Beach’s 11 zip codes. Veteran unemployment is highest in zip codes 90814 and 90806, at 16.8% and 11% respectively.

The percentages of veterans living in poverty, unemployed veterans and veterans with at least a high school degree are shown for each zip code in Long Beach.

Both unemployment and underemployment were associated with veterans living in poverty, according to the 2019 Long Beach Community Health Assessment.

In Long Beach overall, 11.5% of veterans lived below the poverty line, higher than both rates of 9.5% in the county and 7.5% in the state.

“The transition from active duty to civilian life is often accompanied by several challenges, particularly when it comes to obtaining and maintaining gainful employment with adequate wages. Unemployment and underemployment are strongly correlated with poverty rates,” the City’s Community Health Assessment stated.

The Community Health Assessment analyzed data gathered by the US Census for the year-round American Community Survey, which tracks demographic information nationwide, from 2012 to 2017.

Being underemployed is when a worker is not given the opportunity to work an adequate amount of hours or when their skills are not being fully utilized.

This may explain the high averages of impoverished veterans even in areas where they report low levels of unemployment. People working menial jobs or who can’t get enough hours at work may fall into poverty despite being employed.

The 1,058 veterans living in 90813 are employed at a slightly higher rate than both the state and county, with an unemployment rate of 7%. Despite this, 90813 is also the Long Beach zip code with the highest rate of veterans living below the poverty line, at 27.3%. This is a significantly higher poverty rate than what is found in veteran populations across the state, with 7.5% in California and 9.5% in LA County.

The percentages of veterans living in poverty, unemployed veterans and veterans with at least a high school degree are graphed for Long Beach, LA County and California. (Via Long Beach Community Health Assessment 2019)

The zip code area of 90804 had the lowest percent of unemployed veterans at 3.7% but 12.6% were still reported as living in poverty, higher than the city, county and state averages.

Rates of veteran unemployment and poverty were positively correlated in other areas of the city. In 90807, which includes the Bixby Knolls neighborhood, the two rates reflect each other at 7.1% poverty and 7.2% unemployment. The high rate of veteran unemployment in 90814 is also matched by a high rate of veterans living in poverty.

Mental Health America of Los Angeles provides a wide range of services at their Long Beach location at 1955 Long Beach Blvd., for adults who have undergone trauma, including veterans, helping them build marketable job skills while offering mental health care.

“First of all, if they’re veterans they may have served in a war and they’re dealing with the impact of having done that. They’ve returned back to the United States and they’re dealing with having been away from their families. They’re dealing with trying to get back in the workforce. So when I say ‘mental health challenges,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a particular kind of diagnosis, it means that maybe they’re coping with various types of trauma,” Mental Health America of Los Angeles CEO, Christina Miller, told the Signal Tribune.

Total population, number of veterans, and percent of population over 18 that is comprised of veterans is shown for each Long Beach zip code (Via 2019 Long Beach Community Health Assessment)

Although they make up less than 2% of Long Beach’s veteran population, during the 2019 Long Beach Homeless Point-In-Time Count, 304 homeless veterans were reported out of 1,894 unhoused people surveyed. 70% of homeless veterans in Long Beach had some sort of shelter, while 30% were unsheltered.

Mental Health America of Los Angeles helps connect individuals to housing among their other services. Along with social enterprise and skill building programs, the organization has also launched Project Resilience, which teaches members how to cope with past and future trauma.

“We’re providing people in the community and the people we serve, with skills to help them deal with the traumas they’ve been through and to fortify them against trauma that’s coming down the road, or that they’ll deal with in the future. So there’s a big emphasis in terms of mental health. The way we view it is that when people have had any kind of mental health challenge, or maybe having lived in poverty, they need a broad range of things. They may need housing, they may need medical care, they may need specific mental health treatments. They need employment, they need job training. So what we try to do is meet each person where they are, figure out what their individual needs are and provide that. And then we have a host of programs to do that,” Miller said.

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